You have a pierced ear infection when there is tenderness, a yellow discharge, redness, or some swelling around your earlobe.
The most common causes of infection are piercing the ears with unsterile equipment, inserting unsterile posts, or frequently touching the earlobes with dirty hands.
Another frequent cause is earrings that are too tight either because the post is too short (the thickness of earlobes varies) or the clasp is closed too tightly. Tight earrings don't allow air to enter the channel through the earlobe. Also, the pressure from tight earrings reduces blood flow to the earlobe and makes it more vulnerable to infection.
Some inexpensive earrings have rough areas on the posts that scratch the channel and can result in infection. Inserting the post at the wrong angle also can scratch the channel, so a mirror should be used until insertion becomes second nature. Posts containing nickel can also cause an itchy, allergic reaction.
With proper care, most mild earlobe infections will clear up in 1 to 2 weeks. Infections keep coming back if you are not conscientious in ear and earring care.
If the ear is infected, clean both sides of the earlobe with rubbing alcohol. Remove the earring and post 3 times a day and cleanse them with rubbing alcohol. Apply an antibiotic ointment (a nonprescription item) to the post and reinsert it. Continue the antibiotic ointment for 2 days beyond the time the infection seems cleared. Carefully review and follow all the recommendations on preventing infections.
Dangling earrings can lead to a torn earlobe requiring plastic surgery. Do not wear dangling earrings during sports. Also take precautions while dancing, hair washing, or handling young children who might yank your earrings.
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